1st & Goal: 2021 Week 4 in Review

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 20, 2021

With every varsity team getting at most nine regular-season games, every week of the high school football season has the potential to shift landscapes locally and sometimes statewide.

MI Student AidWeek 4 saw its share of movement with league races taking some early shape and playoff talk already beginning as programs work to get a read on how their early work fits into the now fully-implemented “enhanced strength-of-schedule” system.

We’ll discuss that more as we preview our Week 5 top matchups – below take a look at many of the results from this weekend that have the state talking as we approach the midway point.

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Grand Blanc 43, Davison 7 The Bobcats broke free after three single-score wins over strong opponents with a victory that may prove the most memorable of all this regular season, as they ended Davison’s four-game winning streak in this rivalry. Grand Blanc (4-0) joined the Cardinals in the Saginaw Valley League Red in 2018 and had lost the last three league meetings against them by an average of 36 points per defeat. Davison (1-3), last season’s Division 1 runner-up, also has played one of the state’s toughest opening slates. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Watch list Freeland 43, Essexville Garber 14 The Dukes’ defense has been a strong point the last two seasons and first three games of this one as they’d given up 22 points total during a 3-0 start. But Freeland’s offense after four games – and four wins – is more than halfway to equaling last season’s scoring across 11 games.

Remember this one Ubly 50, Harbor Beach 33 The Pirates (2-2) had won five of the last six in this series including twice during the playoffs and 16-14 to open the 2020 regular season. But Ubly (4-0) broke 50 points for the second straight week and is one of two teams sitting atop the Greater Thumb Conference East.

More shoutouts Millington 21, Standish-Sterling 8 The Cardinals (4-0) handed Standish-Sterling (3-1) its first defeat and can become the only undefeated team left in Tri-Valley Conference West I play when they take on Carrollton this week. Montrose 35, Chesaning 0 The Rams (3-1) are a one-point loss from a perfect start and ended Chesaning’s with their second shutout of the season.

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Warren De La Salle Collegiate 21, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 16 The reigning Division 2 runner-up Pilots (3-0) scored all of their points during a mid-first half surge and held the Warriors’ offense scoreless during the second (two points came on a safety) to take an important first step in the Detroit Catholic League Central race. Brother Rice (3-1) hadn’t given up a point since the season opener and had defeated De La Salle the last two seasons. Click for more from the Detroit Free Press.

Watch list Macomb Dakota 27, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 23 With this one of the state’s best rivalries, and both coming off close Week 3 wins, this shouldn’t have been entirely stunning. But with the Big Reds 3-0 coming in, it still could represent a nice turning point for the Cougars (2-2) – and a possible reset on the Macomb Area Conference Red race with undefeated Romeo having defeated Dakota and seeing Chippewa Valley next.

Remember this one Armada 24, Richmond 10 Four teams have won at least one Blue Water Area Conference championship over the last five seasons, and Armada (4-0) is making a strong bid to be the fifth in six years after adding a nice win over the annually-contending Blue Devils (3-1) to their six-point victory over reigning league champ North Branch in Week 3.

More shoutouts Oak Park 30, North Farmington 24 The Knights’ first four opponents are a combined 14-2, and Oak Park (1-3) fell twice by five or fewer points during the first two weeks before getting on the better side of a close one in handing North Farmington (3-1) its first defeat. South Lyon 31, Detroit Country Day 7 The Lions are 4-0 to start for the third time in four seasons and after scoring the most points reigning Division 4 champion Country Day has given up since it also appeared in the 2019 Division 4 title game.


HEADLINER Haslett 21, Mason 8 After opening with an eight-point loss to Jackson, Haslett (3-1) has won three straight – eclipsing its win totals of the last two seasons – to pull into first place alone in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red. The Vikings led 21-0 into the fourth quarter and all but stopped an offense that was averaging 35 points per game entering the weekend. Reigning league champ Mason (2-2) had opened the league schedule in Week 3 with a win over Williamston and joined the Hornets among four teams now a game back in the standings. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal

Watch list Mount Pleasant 33, Midland Dow 10 The Oilers (4-0) had opened with three wins over opponents with a combined one victory now through Week 4, but beating Dow (2-2) solidly reinforced Mount Pleasant’s playoff-point status as the top-ranked team in Division 3.

Remember this one East Lansing 20, Portage Central 15 Mason Woods’ 63-yard touchdown catch from Brevin Jackson with 2:21 to play helped the Trojans (2-2) get back to .500 after a start against opponents a combined 11-5 so far.

More shoutouts Beal City 48, Lake City 8 The Aggies (3-1) are a one-point Week 1 loss from a perfect start and will play Evart this week with the Highland Conference title potentially on the line after shutting down the Trojans (3-1). Stockbridge 68, Pontiac 40 Jeremy Pilch scored nine touchdowns – tying for fourth-most in MHSAA history – and a total of 64 points, which is tied for third-most in that category.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Traverse City Central 42, Traverse City West 14 The Trojans extended their winning streak against the rival Titans to three and moved into first place alone in a Big North Conference that features four of six teams at 3-1 overall – including both Central and West. The Trojans ran out to a quick lead this time and then ran away during a second-half surge. Click for more from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Watch list Big Rapids 25, Central Montcalm 21 After opening with a loss to Coopersville, Big Rapids has won three straight to tie for the early lead in the Central State Activities Association Gold – while handing Central Montcalm (3-1) its lone defeat.

Remember this one Mancelona 66, Johannesburg-Lewiston 42 While the Cardinals (0-4) are admittedly off to a rare slow start, Mancelona (4-0) brought a high-scoring end to a seven-game losing streak against them.

More shoutouts Gaylord 10, Petoskey 7 The Blue Devils (2-2) avenged last season’s 22-14 loss, in the process handing the Northmen (3-1) their lone defeat. Frankfort 22, Oscoda 14 Playing a rare back-to-back series, the Panthers (3-1) finished a two-week sweep of the Owls (1-2), this one ending a bit closer than the Week 3 32-16 win.

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Addison 36, Michigan Center 35 These Cascades Conference contenders never separated from each other by more than seven points, with Addison adding the winning score with 3:12 to play. While the Panthers (4-0) gave up as many points as they had over their first three games, they did hold Michigan Center (3-1) to a season low while scoring the first points the Cardinals had given up this fall. Addison’s Week 8 opponent is the only other team that has yet to lose a Cascades game. Click for more from the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Watch list Union City 26, Reading 20 (OT) The Chargers (2-2) bounced right back from a Week 3 loss to Jonesville, handing Reading (3-1) only its second Big 8 Conference loss over the last five seasons.

Remember this one Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 21, Milan 15 The Big Reds (3-1) had won three straight of St. Mary (although the two Huron League rivals didn’t play each other last season). But the Falcons ended that streak and put themselves in position to take a commanding advantage in the league title race this week against reigning champ Riverview.

More shoutouts Ida 26, Clinton 20 The Bluestreaks (3-1) are in position to contend for the Lenawee County Athletic Association title after edging the reigning Division 6 runner-up and with early league co-leader Hudson next up. Ann Arbor Huron 31, Temperance Bedford 30 The River Rats (3-1) equaled last season’s win total and set themselves up for their best finish in more than a decade by holding off a late Bedford comeback attempt.

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Portage Northern 35, Stevensville Lakeshore 28 Coming off a 2020 District Final run, Portage Northern (1-3)  didn’t find its footing early this fall against three opponents who have made some early noise in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference. But the Huskies may have turned the corner in a big way handing Lakeshore (3-1) its first loss – while also running their winning streak over the Lancers to four as well. Click for more from the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Watch list Lawton 52, Allegan 7 The Blue Devils (4-0)  gave up their first points of the season and continued their streak of breaking 50 points every game this fall.

Remember this one Battle Creek Lakeview 31, Battle Creek Central 18 The Spartans (3-1) extended their winning streak in this rivalry series to three, bouncing back from a Week 3 loss to River Rouge to keep pace tied atop the SMAC.

More shoutouts Parchment 50, Saugatuck 43 Since opening with a loss to Lawton the Panthers (3-1) have equaled last season’s win total, with their next victory guaranteeing their best record since 2017. Plainwell 33, Richland Gull Lake 14 Much of the attention in the Wolverine Conference is being paid to powerful Edwardsburg, but Plainwell (4-0) will roll into this week’s matchup with the Eddies with its best start since 2013.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Houghton 21, Bark River-Harris 20 The Gremlins (3-1) are on a roll since falling to Ishpeming Westwood in their season opener, with this win giving them one more than either last season or 2019. Similar to last season, this came down to the final minutes – a year ago Houghton won 3-0 on a fourth-quarter field goal, and this time the go-ahead points against the Broncos (3-1) came on late touchdown catch. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Watch list Marquette 55, Kingsford 34 Halfway through the Greater Northern Conference schedule, Marquette (3-1) has two 50-point scoring performances and two double-digit wins – this one handing Kingsford (3-1) its first loss.

Remember this one Gladstone 30, Escanaba 15 The Braves (2-2) came back from a one-point loss to Menominee in Week 3 to defeat Escanaba (1-3) for the first time since 2010.

More shoutouts Sault Ste. Marie 49, Cheboygan 21 The Blue Devils (3-1) rebounded from their first loss with their highest points total of the season. Ishpeming Westwood 42, Ishpeming 0 The Patriots (3-1) posted a second-straight shutout of the rival Hematites (1-2), also in bouncing back from a Week 3 defeat.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Montague 33, Muskegon Oakridge 7 The Wildcats have outscored their three West Michigan Conference opponents by a combined 103-7 and have themselves in position to repeat as league champions with a second-straight big win over the rival Eagles (3-1). Two of Montague’s final three league foes are also 3-1 overall, but the Wildcats have at least a game on both in the league standings. Click for more from FOX 17.

Watch list Muskegon Heights Academy 34, Manistee 28 The Tigers didn’t play last season and before that had lost 21 of their last 22. But they’re off to a 4-0 start and have guaranteed their best finish since at least 2011.

Remember this one Rockford 53, Grandville 46 (2OT) Pay little attention to Grandville’s 1-3 record – the Bulldogs have played two of the three early frontrunners in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red. This matchup is almost always memorable, and Rockford (4-0) made it six wins over their last eight meetings including three of those decided by one score.

More shoutouts Muskegon Mona Shores 47, Zeeland West 12 Over the last two weeks Muskegon High and then Mona Shores (3-1) have whittled the O-K Green race down a bit with back-to-back wins over West (1-2), and the Sailors get another contender in Zeeland East next. Byron Center 28, East Grand Rapids 20 The Bulldogs (4-0) avenged last season’s 12-8 Week 9 loss to the Pioneers (1-3) that cost them an outright O-K White championship.


HEADLINER Bridgman 45, Mendon 0 The Bees (4-0) are now 19-2 since moving to 8-player in 2019, but this might be their most notable win since making the switch. Mendon (3-1) had entered averaging 63 points per game, but Bridgman earned its second-straight shutout of the fall while seeing its scoring average fall to only 53 points per contest. Click for more from the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.

Watch list Morrice 59, Lawrence 6 The Orioles (4-0) appear to be building toward another special season now having scored at least 58 points in every game and giving up no more than six in any of them – and the Tigers (3-1) had scored 60+ the previous two weeks. Circle Morrice’s Week 9 matchup with Deckerville as potentially the biggest 8-player game of the regular season.

Remember this one Marion 44, Mesick 29 If Marion (4-0) eventually wins the West Michigan D League title, this could be the decider as it sent 2019 champion Mesick into second place and one game back. (No league title was awarded in 2020.)

More shoutouts Adrian Lenawee Christian 56, Athens 0 The Cougars moved to 15-0 since moving to 8-player last season, this time handing Athens (3-1) its lone defeat. Eau Claire 30, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 26 The Beavers (2-2) have set themselves up to make a run at their best record in at least seven years, especially notable coming back from a stretch that saw them win only two games total from 2015-19.

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PHOTO: A swarm of Grand Blanc defenders bring a Davison ball carrier to the ground Friday. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

Constantine Football All-Stater, Wrestling Champ Aiming for Grand Finale

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

April 30, 2024

CONSTANTINE – Bennett VandenBerg has earned many accolades over the last four years as a three-sport athlete at Constantine.

Southwest CorridorBut the awards aren't what the 6-foot-3, 240-pound standout will remember most when reflecting on his memories as an all-state football player, state champion wrestler and record-breaking throwing specialist on the Falcons' track & field squad.

"I'll remember how I represented our school and pushed myself to be the best I could be in each sport that I played," said VandenBerg, who has earned 12 varsity letters.

VandenBerg has evolved into one of the most accomplished athletes in the state this school year as a senior, especially standing out among those from smaller communities.

This past fall he was named first-team Division 5-6 all-state at defensive end in football before winning the Division 3 Individual Finals wrestling title at 285 pounds in early March at Ford Field.

VandenBerg's final goal is to win the discus title at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals on Saturday, June 1, in Kent City to end his Constantine career all-state in all three sports.

He broke the school record in the discus his junior year with a throw of 158 feet, 1 inch; the previous mark of 156-6 had been held by Doug Polasek since 1986. VandenBerg has eclipsed his school record twice this spring, most recently with a personal-best toss of 170-9 in a Southwestern Athletic Conference double dual meet with Schoolcraft and Kalamazoo Christian. He ranks No. 4 statewide in the event regardless of enrollment division. Lawton junior Mason Mayne at 175-4 is the only Division 3 competitor with a better throw than VandenBerg.

"It's really cool to have your name up on the school record board, but I'd like to make that mark more untouchable before I'm done," VandenBerg said. "My goal is to be a state discus champion. I've put in the necessary work for it. It would be nice to end my career that way."

Kyle Rimer, Constantine's veteran boys track & field coach, is most impressed with VandenBerg's leadership and presence in working with the Falcons' younger athletes.

VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. "Bennett loves to compete. Ever since he was a freshman, we've also had him on our 400-meter relay team. That's something he really enjoys doing. He's not just a thrower, but a good overall athlete with lots of drive,” Rimer said. “There's a lot of individuality in track & field, but I think he does a great job of leading the younger kids. He has the drive, accountability and technique to achieve his goal of being a state champion in his throwing events.”

VandenBerg is already a two-time Finals placer in the discus, earning sixth as a junior and seventh his sophomore year. He admits being a little disappointed with his distance at the 2023 state meet.

"In that particular event (discus) you need lots of focus and determination because there are a ton of tiny things you can mess up on that affect your throw. To become better you need to be consistent, show up every day and be willing to put in the work," VandenBerg said. "Right now I'm working on my speed in the circle and quickness in my follow-through."

VandenBerg also has been pleased with his improvement this spring in the shot put. He's increased his distance by over five feet and hopes to break the school record in that event as well. John Kampars (1967) holds Constantine's shot put record at 54-8¼, and VandenBerg's personal best is 48-10 in a double-dual meet this season against Parchment and Centreville.

"Shot put is a difficult event. You need power, but your form has to be top-notch – otherwise it's tough to move that 12-pound ball," VandenBerg said. "I would love to qualify for state in both the discus and shot put and be all-state in each. That would be amazing if I could be a state champion in either of those events."

VandenBerg has put in extra work in the offseason with special instruction from Bill Griffey of Next Throw in Plainwell, along with working with Constantine assistant track & field and head football coach Shawn Griffith.

"Bennett puts a lot of time into working on his throwing. He spends a lot of time in the weight room, and he's a bigger kid who is not afraid to be coached and listens to what other people tell him," Griffith said. "We're excited to see what he can do now that we've had warmer weather recently."

VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft.VandenBerg's motivation this spring follows a tremendous wrestling season that saw him finish 54-0 and capture the 285 championship with a 3-0 win in the title match over Reed City junior Wyatt Spalo.

"I gained 20 pounds of muscle and did everything you need to do to become a better athlete to wrestle the heavyweight division. Winning the title was overwhelming. It was everything I ever wanted, and the first 20 minutes after winning it was relief, especially after losing in the Finals as a junior. I just went into that last match and wrestled smart and confident," VandenBerg said. "My speed and strength gave me an advantage over the bigger heavyweights I faced this year."

Vandenberg, 188-22 with 104 career pins, became the 10th Finals champion in Constantine wrestling history and the first to achieve the feat since Kevin Watkins won a 152-pound crown in 2000.

VandenBerg competed at 189 as a freshman and sophomore. He was a Regional qualifier as a freshman and finished sixth in Division 3 as a sophomore before ending his junior campaign as the Finals runner-up at 215. 

"Bennett is a competitor who hates to lose, and if he does he learns from it. He had a lot of good practice partners on the team his first three years, and he wasn't going to be denied after losing in the Finals as a junior," said Constantine wrestling coach Dale Davidhizar Jr.

VandenBerg played on Constantine's varsity football team for four years. He got a lot of extra playing time as a freshman when Constantine reached the Division 6 Semifinals during in the COVID-shortened season. He led the Falcons in rushing as a sophomore before switching to tight end as a junior. Out of necessity, VandenBerg returned to lead Constantine in rushing and scoring again as a senior.

"Bennett learned a great deal from the older guys on the team his first three varsity seasons. He learned leadership qualities and is a very unselfish kid who is willing to do what's best for his team," Griffith said.

VandenBerg is most proud of Constantine winning a District crown last fall, especially after his senior class went 0-5-1 as eighth graders. VandenBerg posted 164 solo tackles at defensive end during his final high school season and was Constantine's main offensive weapon with 1,354 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing on 186 carries.

"Winning Districts as seniors in football was a special moment. As eighth graders, we weren't exactly the most athletic team, but we put in the work as we got older to become successful," VandenBerg said.

VandenBerg has been invited to play for the West team at the annual Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's East-West All-Star Game this summer.

College coaches have shown interest in VandenBerg in all three sports, especially football and wrestling. VandenBerg, who carries a cumulative GPA of 3.989 and scored 1110 on his SAT, is weighing his options in athletics but knows he wants to study either ecology or forestry in college.

"I love being outdoors and doing what I love to do," VandenBerg said.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Constantine’s Bennett VandenBerg competes in the discus during a home meet his junior season. (Middle) VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. (Below) VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft. (Photos by Brandon Watson/Sturgis Journal.)